In this annual series, current and former volunteers reflect on the Advent Gospels and the Four Pillars of Faith-Based Service: Social Justice, Simplicity, Community and Spirituality. Presented by Catholic Apostolate Center and Catholic Volunteer Network.
First Week of Advent
Reflection by: Shaina Glasgow, Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps – Cap Corps
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”
In my current service placement in the Emergency Room at St. Vincent’s Charity Hospital, it is crucial to be alert and aware of your surroundings. There are indeed dull, lagging moments—but in less than two minutes you can have every room filled, EMS bringing in a full cardiac arrest, and a handful of patients streaming into the waiting room. If you aren’t aware of what is going on around you, it becomes difficult to jump in and assist fellow staff in caring for patients.
When reading this Sunday’s Gospel, I am reminded that this same awareness is crucial for growth in our personal relationship with Christ. It is important to be mindful of Christ’s presence in the midst of everyday busyness. If we are not watchful to the point of being expectant of an encounter with God, then it is easy to miss opportunities to deepen our relationship with Christ.
Yet how can we listen to, or speak with, God amidst the craziness of our workday? Within each interaction we encounter with those around us lies an invitation from God. He may invite us to respond with love, compassion, gentle correction, understanding, or patience, for example. I believe the secret to becoming attentive to God’s voice is silence. In the mystery of silence, we become aware of the ever-present God and train our hearts to more easily recognize Him internally even when our external world is not silent. Prayer is a great way to practice silence. We can simply acknowledge that God is with us, and allow ourselves to rest in that—no thoughts, just us and God.
Focus on Social Justice: How can we use this awareness to better serve the poor or those in our community both this year and in the future? Many of us closely encounter populations (refugees, addicts, the homeless, etc.) that daily face the consequences of social injustice. It is important for us who serve these populations to be aware of the sociopolitical situations currently affecting their lives. If we choose to do this, to become educated about the ways others are underserved or mistreated, then we can become more attentive and sensitive to their physical and emotional needs. We may even become an example to our coworkers, or others, of how to better interact with and serve those who are often misunderstood in our society.
Service Suggestion: One important aspect of being watchful is to get rid of distractions. A practical way to do this, aside from prayer, could be to silence cell phones when at work. This is tough, especially if nothing particularly stimulating is happening. Instead, try to be alert and present. Ask your coworkers (or those you are serving) if you can do anything to help. Look around for little odd-jobs that sometimes get neglected (for example, cleaning up a messy area). Perhaps you can simply start a conversation with someone sitting or standing near you by asking “How is your day,” and genuinely listening to their response. You’ll get to know your coworkers and those you serve more intimately, and open a lot of doors for yourself (and others) to encounter Christ.
Prayer for Silence, by Thomas Merton
Lady, Queen of Heaven,
pray me into solitude and silence and unity,
that all my ways may be immaculate in God.
Let me be content with whatever darkness surrounds me,
finding him always by me, in his mercy.
Let me keep silence in this world,
except in so far as God wills and in the way he wills it.
Let me at least disappear into the writing I do.
It should mean nothing special to me,
nor harm my recollection.
The work could be a prayer;
its results should not concern me.
– Shaina Glasgow
Looking for more reflections like this one? We invite you to download our Advent Reflection Guide in its entirety, available by clicking here. You can find an extensive library of Advent resources by visiting the Catholic Apostolate Center website – click here.